Orange Is the New Orange. Nutritionally, That Is.

Related To:
460325163

460325163

Sliced carrots in a bowl

With the new season of the prison drama Orange Is the New Black set to debut this week, it seems like a good time to celebrate all things orange. But that's not necessarily a nod to neon-orange processed food -- like crunchy cheese curls -- or even prison garb, for that matter. This is about the tasty orange stuff that grows on trees and plants, all of which is uniquely good for us.

"The reality is various types of orange produce are all very similar nutritionally," says Mary Howley Ryan, MS, RDN, owner of Beyond Broccoli Nutritional Counseling, in Jackson, Wyo. "The carotenoids -- especially beta-carotene that turns into vitamin A -- not only give them their beautiful color but also provide big health benefits." That said, there are literally hundreds of different carotenoid compounds to be found in orange fruits and vegetables, so it pays to try them all.

Carrot

The antioxidant beta-carotene is found in such plentiful quantities in carrots that it was actually named after the vegetable. This nutrient is also widely studied -- research in the Netherlands found that those who had higher levels of carrot intake had significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. And other compounds called polyacetylenes found in carrots have more recently been shown to inhibit growth of colon cancer cells in mice.

Mango

This tropical fruit is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A and C as well as potassium and vitamin K. "It also packs three grams of fiber in a one-cup serving and contains more cancer-protective polyphenols than most other tropical fruits," Ryan says.

179301865

179301865

Fruit - mango.

Sweet Potato

Unlike its white cousin, the orange-fleshed sweet potato is one of the best sources of vitamin A, and it also provides a good dose of vitamins E, C, B6, manganese, potassium and fiber.

187904105

187904105

Batata (Ipomoea batatas)

Pumpkin

While you may have to wait for fall to enjoy fresh pumpkins, canned varieties (as well as pumpkin seeds) are nutritious options all year round. The flesh is high in fiber and a rich source of vitamin A as well as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin -- which are particularly important for eye health because they may protect against macular degeneration. The seeds contain phytosterols that may help lower cholesterol.

490613999

490613999

Single fresh pumpkin isolated on white background

Peach

In addition to the usual orange benefits (like vitamins A and C and a variety of carotenoids), peaches also contain beneficial phenolic compounds similar to those found in grapes and red wine. But don't peel those peaches: "Most of the vitamin C, beta-carotene and phenol are in the skin," Ryan says.

483171467

483171467

One peach

Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Eating By Color: Orange

Throughout the day you should have a rainbow of colors --- red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple and white. Each color is rich in specific nutrients that help make a well-balanced diet. In this series we’ll tell you why each color is important and with Halloween around the corner, we thought it was most appropriate to start with orange.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

This dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan curry soup is made creamy with coconut milk and pureed white beans instead of cream or yogurt.

The Ultimate Pumpkin Cheesecake — Most Popular Pin of the Week

Food Network Magazine couldn't get the secret recipe for the Cheesecake Factory's famous Pumpkin Cheesecake, so they made their own creamy, decadent version. Get the recipe.

Put These On Your Plate: 10 Holiday Must-Haves

There's no lack of choices at Thanksgiving, but certain seasonal foods are busting with nutrients and should take top priority on your plate. If you're going to indulge, why not load up on the good-for-you stuff? Here's our list of top 10 picks for your plate.

Fall Fest: Pumpkins 5 Ways

This weekend we took the kids to a pumpkin patch and they absolutely loved it! Now we have lots of pumpkins and need to put them to good use. Here are 5 recipes using your freshly picked (and even canned) pumpkins.

31 Days of Pumpkins

Whether it’s for dinner, dessert or carving Jack-o-lanterns, nothing says fall quite like orange pumpkins. We’ve got pumpkin ideas for every day of the month.

Best 5 Pumpkin Bread Recipes

Celebrate the beginning of fall with Food Network's best five pumpkin bread recipes.

50 Canned Pumpkin Recipes

Put this fall favorite to good use with dozens of recipes from Food Network Magazine.